The OC Airshow (Ocean City, MD 2020)

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Praise Pixels! An airshow actually happened at the beach in Ocean City, Maryland on the 15th and 16th of August, 2020. Previously scheduled for June 15th and 16th, the organizers delayed the show by two months hoping the Covid-19 Pandemic would get better…it really hasn’t. Although it was a miracle to actually hold a show, the organizers had to make many 11th hour changes. All paid seating was eliminated because there was not enough social separation which also eliminated the parachute drop zone and an Airshow Center location. The City of Ocean City contributed $100,000 to preserve the show but losses were estimated to be more than double that amount. Still, it was the first airshow of the 2020 season many of us have seen. This would also be the first performance of the season for the USAF Thunderbirds.

My days started at Ocean City Municipal Airport where the Geico Skytypers, B-25 “Panchito”, Mike Wiskas, Scott Francis and Larry Labriola were based. The jet teams based out of NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility, approximately 35 miles to the south.

One change from the original line up is that the U.S. Navy F/A-18 Rhino Demonstration Team dropped off but due to the widespread cancellation of Airshows, the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team and F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team were available and added to the show. They joined the A-10 Demonstration Team and the Thunderbirds. I do not recall a show in recent memory with four jet teams from the same service in attendance.

Friday’s practice was the day to view the show. Rain was in the area but Ocean City was in a pocket of sun and humid air. The jets had no problems making their own atmosphere and it was exciting to see and photograph. I only saw the second half of the show from the beach as Ocean City Airport is 5 miles away and parking is a battle. Although there was no longer a “show center”, the geographic show center is around 16th Street. I only managed to make it up to 9th Street and took in the remainder of practice from there.

The A-10 Demo was just finishing up but would remain in the area for the Heritage Flight. The F-22 Raptor performed next and then joined up with the F-35 and A-10 for an all-jet, 4th and 5th Generation Heritage Flight. The first pass of the group began totally enveloped in a cloud of vapor. After three or four passes, the F-22 and A-10 returned to Wallops while the F-35A performed.

The Thunderbirds did a modified performance as they arrived too late Thursday to survey the area. They still flew for about 45 minutes and did not disappoint with fast, vaporous flybys.

Saturday remained cloudy with a little rain but the entire show was flown. Andrew McKenna arrived earlier at Ocean City Airport with his P-51 Mustang for the Heritage Flight. I got an earlier start but traffic and parking caused me to miss a few early performances like “Panchito” and Larry Labriola in the L-39C Albatross. I was very happy to get to know Larry at the airport over the weekend. The Geico Skytypers were just wrapping up their routine and the race with the Miss Geico Speedboat. Scott Francis performed his high energy routine in his blue MX-S and a C-17 from Dover made a flyby.

The Air Force performed in the same sequence as the day prior with the P-51 added in to the Heritage Flight. Mike Wiskas performed prior to the Thunderbirds in his red Pitts S-1-11B. His enjoyable display is something different over the water as he frequently buzzes the Coast Guard boats.

I actually thought the Thunderbirds had cancelled because of the weather. It was certainly understandable. It was cloudy and drizzly. I started walking and except for being late, they flew their whole show.

Sunday’s show was canceled due to rain.

This was a great lineup in a time when those of us who love Airshows needed an Airshow. I am not the biggest fan of beach airshows and I have added a new dislike to my list. Gulls, more accurately, the people problem in feeding the Gulls. Every living thing loves Thrashers Fries. More than a few frames were fouled by a Gull. Despite the weather and the Gulls, I was thrilled to be there at my first airshow of the 2020 season.

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